Title page for ETD etd-10312011-123708

Type of Document Dissertation
Author McGeough, Ryan Erik
Author's Email Address ryan.mcgeough@gmail.com
URN etd-10312011-123708
Title The American Counter-Monumental Tradition: Renegotiating Memory and the Evolution of American Sacred Space
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
King, Andrew Committee Chair
Bowman, Ruth Committee Member
Crick, Nathan Committee Member
Sanders, Meghan Committee Member
Sarkar, Husain Dean's Representative
  • Public Argument
  • Public Deliberation
  • Place
Date of Defense 2011-08-08
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation explores U.S. monuments as contested sites where marginalized groups who have been either omitted or villianized in the original monument at a site have sought to gain inclusion and have their narratives of the past articulated on U.S. sacred sites. My project expands on academic literature on German counter-monuments and links American counter-monuments to this field of study. Following my analysis of three German counter-monuments, this project explores three American counter-monuments: Chicago’s Haymarket Square, “Liberty Place” in New Orleans, and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington D.C., which offer examples of struggles over public memory on issues of class (Haymarket Square), race (Liberty Place), and sex (Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial). I selected each site intentionally because each has been marked with an original monument, as well as served as a site where the narrative contained in that monument has been challenged by those denied representation on the sacred site. Each has been altered significantly since the creation of its original monument, and has also been the locus of vernacular performances and responses in the years since the inception of the original monuments. Accordingly, my dissertation offers a critical analysis of the aforementioned counter-monuments by exploring four central traits of counter-monuments: 1) the evolution of monumental sites, 2) presence, absence, and irony, 3) the monument’s relation to sacred space, and 4) the use of the site as a forum. I argue that American counter-monuments begin with competing claims to a sacred space, the eventual creation of multiple monuments (each representing a different perspective on how the past should be remembered), and the representation of the development of the site across time. Ultimately, those in control of each site have attempted to reconcile the competing perspectives under some transcendent ideal, thus rearticulating the different perspectives not as competing, but as different perspectives pursuing common American ideals. Both by gaining access to build a monument at U.S. sacred sites, and by having this monument marked as a perspective contributing to an American ideal, counter-monuments offer spaces at which U.S. public memory has been expanded to include previously marginalized perspectives.

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